Jared Allen (Bruce Kluckhohn/US Presswire)
Get keys to the game, fast facts, series history and more as the Vikings and Bears get ready to close down their seasons with one last meeting. As they do, Jared Allen still has record goals on his plate.
Detroit Lions (10-5) at Green Bay Packers (14-1)
Indianapolis Colts (2-13) at Jacksonville Jaguars (4-11)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-11) at Atlanta Falcons (9-6)
New York Jets (8-7) at Miami Dolphins (5-10)
Chicago Bears (7-8) at Minnesota Vikings (3-12)
Washington Redskins (5-10) at Philadelphia Eagles (7-8)
Carolina Panthers (6-9) at New Orleans Saints (12-3)
San Francisco 49ers (12-3) at St. Louis Rams (2-13)
Tennessee Titans (8-7) at Houston Texans (10-5)
Buffalo Bills (6-9) at New England Patriots (13-3)
Baltimore Ravens (11-4) at Cincinnati Bengals (9-6)
Seattle Seahawks (7-8) at Arizona Cardinals (7-8)
Kansas City Chiefs (6-9) at Denver Broncos (8-7)
San Diego Chargers (7-8) at Oakland Raiders (8-7)
Pittsburgh Steelers (11-4) at Cleveland Browns (4-11)
Dallas Cowboys (8-7) at New York Giants (8-7)
Chicago Bears (7-8) at Minnesota Vikings (3-12)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
SURFACE: Field Turf
TV: FOX, Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa
KEYS TO THE GAME: One big ingredient lacking during Chicago's five-game losing skid – special teams impact plays. Devin Hester has been bothered by a sore ankle and the offense has struggled to punch it into the end zone when it does manage to sustain a drive. The Vikings are winless in the NFC North and susceptible to pass coverage breakdowns. Minus RB Adrian Peterson, struggling QB Christian Ponder must challenge the Bears' shaky safeties with TE Kyle Rudolph and top playmaker Percy Harvin.
FAST FACTS: Vikings DEs Jared Allen (18.5) and Brian Robison (7.0) have 25.5 sacks. ... Bears DE Julius Peppers had two sacks in the last meeting and owns seven in eight games vs. Minnesota.
SERIES HISTORY: 101st regular-season meeting. Vikings lead series, 52-46-2. The Vikings are 3-1 at home the past four seasons, including last year's 40-14 loss at nearby TCF Bank Stadium. The game had to be moved to that open-air venue because the roof of the Metrodome had collapsed during a snowstorm. The teams also met once in a 1994 NFC Wild Card game, with the Bears winning 35-18 at the Metrodome.
The Vikings would like a victory to separate themselves from the Les Steckel-led 1984 team that finished 3-13. Defensive end Jared Allen would like 4.5 sacks to overtake Michael Strahan as the NFL single-season record-holder.
Perhaps the two can work together against the Bears in Sunday's season finale at Mall of America Field.
Despite their 3-12 record, the Vikings still rank No. 4 in sacks per pass play while Allen leads the league with a career-high 18.5 sacks. The Bears, who have lost five straight to fall out of the playoffs at 7-8, have one of the worst pass-protection units in the league, ranking 25th in sacks allowed per pass play.
Allen will primarily face left tackle J'Marcus Webb, although Webb is sure to have help from running backs chipping him and tight ends doubling him. Allen saw extra attention in the first meeting on Oct. 16 at Soldier Field, but still had one sack in a 39-10 loss.
Allen, who was the only Viking named to the Pro Bowl on Tuesday, said he's still within striking distance of Strahan.
"Absolutely," he said. "I'm four away. Absolutely, that's within reach. That's such a tough thing to get to because so much goes into a sack. ... The guy has to hold the ball. You got to get the blocking you need. But it's always possible. I've gotten four in a game before."
Actually, Allen got 4.5 at home against the Packers in a Monday Night Football game two years ago.
Allen holds the league lead by half sack over Philadelphia's Jason Babin and Dallas' DeMarcus Ware. Allen also is pursuing the team record for sacks in a season. Chris Doleman set the mark of 21 in 1989.
Allen, who came into the league as a long snapper in 2004, said he wasn't watching Strahan's pursuit of the record in 2001. He has, however, watched the replay of Strahan's record-breaking sack. You know, the one in which then Packers quarterback Brett Favre flopped for him.
"Brett, man, c'mon," Allen said with a smile. "A sack is a sack is a sack. I don't care how you get it. I'm just hoping I get some of that too.
"Hey, McCown, feel free to trip and fall and I'll touch you. It doesn't have to be painful."
Special teams coordinator Dave Toub gets to see his ace coverage guy, Corey Graham, play in the Pro Bowl in February, but return specialist Devin Hester lost out to Cardinals rookie Patrick Peterson.
"I was shocked," Toub said. "(Hester) had a great year, three returns (for touchdowns) and he had one on kickoff return and two on punt return. The fact that he did both, I thought he should (have gone). I'm not taking anything away from Peterson because he is a great punt returner, no question."
Peterson returned four punts for touchdowns this season.
Matt Forte was voted to his first Pro Bowl this week, but teammates believe he has been playing at a high level since he was drafted in the second round out of Tulane in 2008.
"Since he stepped into a Bears uniform he's been like that," center Roberto Garza said. "He's been a Pro Bowl player, been a guy that can do it all. He can pass protect, run the ball, catch the ball, and he's a smart guy who brings a lot of energy to this team. He goes out there and puts on his helmet and goes to work every single day, so he's definitely one of the team leaders and one of the guys that we look to on the offensive side."
LG Edwin Williams, who will start his seventh straight game on Sunday, signed a two-year contract extension Wednesday.
Williams, who was signed to the practice squad early last season after being cut by the Redskins, started three games at right guard last season. This season he stepped in after Chris Williams (no relation) suffered a season-ending dislocation of his left wrist and has performed well enough to be considered a candidate for a full-time starting job next season. Edwin Williams has added value because he can play center, where he started for three years at Maryland.